Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gardens of Water

I move next week, so I promise this is my last (okay, maybe next-to-last) review of a book about Turkey.

Alan Drew’s Gardens of Water is quite similar, at least thematically, to other fictional accounts I have already read, particularly Bliss. Sinan, a Kurd, lives outside Istanbul with his wife and two children. The story begins the day before a powerful earthquake hits Turkey. Sinan suddenly finds himself, and his family, jobless and homeless.

Convinced that Americans are responsible for, or at least funding, the Turkish war against the Kurds and the PKK, Sinan is reluctant to accept help from American—specifically, Christian American—relief workers. He is particularly wary of a young American who shows interest in his teenage daughter, İrem.

Sinan is torn between two worlds: the traditional and the contemporary. He struggles to maintain his family’s honor while functioning in modern society.

I am still a novice when it comes to fiction about Turkey, but even I know that the book’s themes are not new. That in itself is not a problem, but Drew doesn’t seem to bring anything fresh to the story. His writing is acceptable, but the story is formulaic, and he relies heavily on cliché.

Drew does a good job, though, of pulling the reader into Sinan’s thoughts. Sinan isn’t simply a conservative, “backwards” villager. He genuinely believes in his lifestyle, although his faith falters now and then, and wants nothing more than for his family to feel and do the same.

Gardens of Water is certainly not groundbreaking, but it is adequate.

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